7 Things Professors Expect You to Know on the First Day of Class

Maybe you’re new to campus or maybe you’re a sophomore who hasn’t gotten the hang of the lecture hall yet, but college professors have high expectations for all of their students. While they may not care if you roll up to class in pajamas, they will care if you aren’t paying attention. Some college professors are straightforward with their demands, and others may rely on you having common sense. No matter what side your professor lands on, there are some things that every professor expects from you.

1. Be on time

This may be obvious to most, but it’s seriously important. Your lecture, lab or discussion hall isn’t a frat party that you can arrive at fashionably late. Not only do the latecomers interrupt the professor with the sound of the door, fumbling to find a seat and getting ready for class, but it’s just plain disrespectful. 

“Being on time shows that you’re ready to learn and will also give you time to set up your laptop or notebook and get settled before the class starts. When you’re on time, you’re less distracting to your peers and you’ll never miss the attendance sheet,” says Erin Sestric, a graduate of Duquesne University.

2. Know the due dates

College professors have to memorize hundreds of students’ names, grade a ton of papers and sometimes even work on their own education. If they can stay organized, then so can you.

Autumn Dube, a senior at Emmanuel College, says, “Organization is key for maintaining success throughout your semester, and professors expect students to know this. Having a planner and writing down important dates from your syllabi is definitely a must at the beginning of each semester.”

Planning ahead means you get to give each assignment the attention it requires so you can incorporate study time and Netflix time into your schedule.

3. Know the university policies and procedures

Many colleges require their professors to outline the rules for plagiarism, university policies surrounding students with disabilities and their grading scales. Since it’s explained to you at orientation, on the university website, and on every syllabus, professors don’t want to waste their beloved lecture time outlining everything for you.

Sydnee Marie, a graduate student at Florida Atlantic University, urges students to read up. “It sounds intimidating, but lots of professors hate answering questions they feel they've sufficiently explained in the syllabus,” she says. “It slows down the class and takes away from teaching time.”

Save your first-day questions for specifics about assignments and what you need to succeed for the rest of the semester.

Related: 7 Ways to Start the School Year Stress-Free

4. Go to office hours

“I think one thing that professors expect you to know is the importance of office hours,” says Mara Hyman, a graduate of the University of Southern California. “It's easy to forget that they're there the further you are into the semester, but your professors are there to help you.”

Imagine being a professor of a 300-person lecture and having 50 students come up to you after class with a million questions. It sounds impossible, doesn’t it? That’s why professors have office hours; it’s the one-on-one time that you can’t get in between classes.

Mara also points out one bonus of office hours: “If you can establish a positive relationship with [your professors] at the beginning of the semester, you will set yourself up for success.”

5. Ask relevant questions

With only a semester worth of classes, many professors try to get in as much material as possible. Not only does that mean they’re relying on you to do your homework, but they are also relying on you to further the discussion and not hinder it. This means that you shouldn’t be raising your hand to ask what happened in Chapter Three, but you should be raising your hand to ask how Chapter Three tied together a loose end from Chapter One.

“In general they expect you to show up to class, to pay attention, take notes and ask relevant questions," says Sophia Walker, a senior at Bowdoin College. “Irrelevant questions just slow down the pace of the class.”

You may think you can become teacher’s pet by asking simple questions, but it can be frustrating to your professor and your fellow classmates if it’s clear you’re only in it for the participation points.

6. They’re more understanding than you think

Even in college, emergencies happen and teachers understand. Don’t forget—they were college students once, too. If your mental health, family issues or unforeseen circumstances are interfering with your work, it’s best to talk to your professors as soon as possible.

“I had to drive home for a family emergency the day I had a big paper due, and my teacher was only accepting hard copies,” says Emily McMullen, a graduate of Temple University. “But instead of taking the bad grade, I emailed my teacher, and she was more than understanding and ended up letting me turn the paper in when I got back to campus.”

Sometimes your professors may seem like they’re the most frigid people in the world; however, at the end of the day, they’re people too and they know life happens. As long as you’re not lying to them and constantly finding excuses to turn in late work, your professors will work with you to help you succeed in their class.

7. They trust the TAs for a reason

If a professor is teaching multiple classes with a bunch of different sections, then they will most likely get help from teaching assistants. TAs can be responsible for grading, holding discussion sections and hosting review sessions. You may not think it’s fair that you’re receiving a grade from someone who isn’t an actual professor yet, but TAs are incredibly knowledgeable about the subjects they teach.

Alexandra Rodwick, a senior at Slippery Rock University, says, “My TAs gave me the one-on-one attention I needed before tests and quizzes. I had a lot of huge lectures, so it was impossible for me to get help from my actual professor when I had a quick question.”

Creating a good relationship with your TA doesn't only help you in class; it can help you in the future as well. TAs are a good resource for recommendations because they know you as an individual and a student.  

Set yourself up for success by being prepared on your first day of the semester. Whether it’s your first semester or your last, knowing what your professor wants from you will help you get that A—and make the class a more positive experience.

Kaitlin is an alumna of Temple University where she graduated with a B.A. in Journalism and a minor in Political Science. At Temple, she served as Campus Correspondent for Her Campus Temple and was a founding member and former Public Relations Vice President for the Iota Chi chapter of Alpha Xi Delta. 

She currently serves Her Campus Media as a Region Leader and Chapter Advisor and was formally a Feature Writer for Fashion, Beauty and Health.

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